In 2012, pre-Measure B in LA County, I wrote an op-ed for California’s Daily Journal (San Francisco, LA, and San Diego).
The Daily Journal reports to lawyers on litigation, transactions, regulations, law firms, and settlements, with daily rulings, attorney-written columns, profiles of counsel, and more. Last week, their op-ed editor contacted me, requesting my thoughts on the “California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act.” Sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), this proposed Act seeks to take Measure B statewide. It also contains a couple other mind-bogglingly egregious tenets.
I was all too happy to share my thoughts with the journal, the entirety of which are reprinted below. Enjoy! What do you think?
(pictured: click to enlarge, text reprinted below)
More of the same – The “California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act” is poised to be 2016’s Measure B (9/24/15)
In November 2012, Los Angeles County voters passed the “Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act,” also known as Measure B, which requires condom use in all porn productions shot in LA. Today, plans to take Measure B statewide in 2016 are moving forward.
Like Measure B, the statewide proposal is being spearheaded by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), an organization whose stated mission is “to rid the world of AIDS.” AHF recently announced that they have gathered more signatures than are required to put their “California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act” on the ballot next year.
There are many similarities between the existing county measure and this new statewide proposal, as well as some additional requirements. Like Measure B, if enacted, the statewide proposal will require the use of condoms for all acts of anal and vaginal sex occurring during the course of commercial adult content production (e.g. conventional porn, as well as shorter “clips” and web-camming content). Producers will be required to pay for performers’ STI tests, vaccinations, any requisite examinations, either up front or as a fine imposed by the state.
In addition to aspects drawn from the Measure B base, the proposed statewide act also contains a number of unclear, problematic, and overreaching new dimensions. These include, but are not limited to, private citizens’ ability to sue porn producers – many of whom are also porn performers – who create content without condoms. This particular proponent comes complete with a financial incentive – whistleblowers are to be awarded twenty-five percent of any fines collected. Further, the statewide initiative mandates a special state employee position for AHF President Michael Weinstein, one that would require a legislative vote to remove him. Presumably, this position will give Weinstein standing to defend the act in court.
Measure B has been nothing but an off-mark debacle since it passed in 2012. And in my view, as a scholar who has been researching the inner workings of the adult entertainment industry community, as well as the socio-cultural significance of porn, erotic media production, and its related products for over a decade, the proposed statewide mandate will continue along the same path. It’s bad for workers, the state of California, and ultimately US culture overall.
Consider: Of the roughly 7,000 new instances of HIV in LA County (population 9.8 million) between 2010 and 2013, not a single transmission occurred on a porn set. One could speculate that this is due largely to the adult industry’s self-imposed STI testing and mitigation system, which began in the 1990s and currently requires performers to test for a battery of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, every two weeks. Further, it’s worth noting that there have been only two verified instances of HIV infection happening on an LA County porn set – in 1998 and 2004. These figures call the motives of an organization (allegedly) committed to the cessation of global HIV into sharp question.
Further, the proposed statewide act does not take the real-world mechanics of porn production into consideration, much less insights from performers themselves. Performers have come forward with concerns about bodily autonomy, the health and safety risks presented by the sustained use of condoms in workplace settings, and the privacy issues that will arise when an Average Joe has the capacity to take a porn star/producer to court. By neglecting to consider the mechanics of the specific population and the concerns of its community members, this act – once again – attempts to insert a square peg into a round hole. And if passed, it will result in further marginalizing the community it (allegedly) seeks to support. Because if there is one thing Measure B has shown us, it’s that adult industry workers, including both performers and those working behind the scenes, are now being put at greater occupational risk.
According to FilmLA, post-Measure B, the number of film permits issued for porn productions immediately nosedived by 90 percent, from approximately 480 in 2012 to just 40 permits in 2013. The numbers did not bounce back in 2014.
This could mean several things. It could be that porn producers are fleeing LA County, or California altogether, for locations where fewer regulations are in place. Many producers have moved to Nevada, for example – even though the only US states it’s legal to shoot porn in are California and New Hampshire. This exodus both entraps performers and producers into breaking the law, as well as fractures the adult industry community that’s developed over decades in Los Angeles. In a world that still very much discriminates against members of the adult entertainment community, fracturing a real-world social network in this manner clearly puts workers at risk.
But porn hasn’t left LA County entirely, not even close. Many producers have stuck around, shooting without permits. This means paring crews down and shooting in obscure locations while increasing the number of hours of work per day to compress production times. This has an obvious deleterious impact on the local economy, but it’s also dangerous and exhausting for those working in porn – the very same people Measure B claims to protect.
If passed, the California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act will only augment and exacerbate these issues. The mass exodus and decline in permitting we’ve seen in LA will happen, for example, in the Bay Area, another porn production hub. And sadly, very few people outside the adult industry seem to care about any of this.
Adult content production and pornography are volatile topics that inspire a wide array of reactions and emotions in many people, which is not surprising. Sex is still such a touchy subject in our wider culture, and the vast majority of the public’s knowledge about commercial sex comes from misinformed fictions. And this over-reliance on myth has allowed AHF to lead LA County and the state of California down this extremely misguided path.
Now, this is not to suggest that the adult content production industry could not stand for some regulation. It absolutely could. As such, close consideration of industry operations and in-depth collaborative efforts with community members may reveal spaces where city, county, and/or state support could be helpful. This, however, is the opposite of what these AHF-sponsored measures are doing.
As a culture, though we seem to be getting more sexually open, or at least inclusive and respectful, the fact remains that we are wildly puritanical when it comes the business of commercial sex performance and content production. And if LA County and the state of California can economically gut one community while simultaneously glossing over individuals’ rights and autonomy under the auspices of a very specific vision of what sex should look like… well, who’s to say they can’t do the very same to yours?
(pictured: condom image via Playboy, used to illustrate another article of mine)
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